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The Berneout Pledge

The Berneout Pledge is a simple tool for hassle-free open-source contribution licensing. It's short, simple, and easy with GitHub and BASH. No paper. No bots. No ties.

The Berneout Pledge is experimental legal technology, in active development, provided free for the public good. Nobody involved in the project will answer to you, financially or professionally, for any problem you have because of it. Formal contributor license agreements use older, better known legal mechanisms, and pose less risk. Get a lawyer if you need one.

For Contributors

The Berneout Pledge is a short pledge you can make to show that:

  1. You understand common intellectual property traps and the basic responsibilities of a good open-source contributor.

  2. Unless you say otherwise, you offer contributions to others' projects on the same terms they offer the project to you and everybody else.

Alas, these cannot otherwise be expected or implied.

To make the pledge:

  1. Create a GitHub account if you don't already have one.

  2. Fork the official GitHub repository and clone it to your computer.

  3. Read the pledge file. Make sure you understand and agree with it. Do research if you need it!

  4. Run the included script and follow the prompts. If you sign the pledge, it will create a new commit for you that will be easy for projects to verify.

  5. Push the new commit to your fork on GitHub.

The end result should be a fork of the official repository at{you}/berneout-pledge with one additional commit. Like this one.

If you change your mind about the pledge later, remove your fork from GitHub.

For Maintainers

Of the current popular contributor licensing approaches, the Berneout Pledge works most like the Developer Certificate of Origin used in Linux kernel development. A few important differences:

  1. By signing, folks making the Berneout Pledge take specific, individual action to show they understand the basics and norms of contributor licensing and offer their stuff accordingly.

  2. The Berneout Pledge helps educate contributors about works made for hire, transparency, and the need to get permission to contribute code from work.

  3. The Berneout Pledge is easier and friendlier to read. No cross-references. No legal-style numbering. No license header. Just five paragraphs.

  4. The Berneout Pledge is designed for GitHub Flow, rather than Kernel or Git Flow. Commits come direct from their contributors, rather than through a gauntlet of reviewers and subsystem maintainers. There are no metadata tags, like Signed-Off-By, to add. Contributors show their agreement by signing forks of the pledge under the same GitHub user names they use to contribute, making them easy to check, even for new and one-time contributors.

For Everybody

The most important thing the Berneout Pledge does is present contributor licensing as it is. Giving as you take and watching out for others are awesome things open-source people do and should be proud of doing, not ritual dances to appease fancy-pants jerks. Nobody "complies with" the Berneout Pledge. That's not how any of this stuff works.

Longer term, the Berneout Pledge might help make the case that licensing contributions on the project's public terms is the norm, and should be implied wherever open-source happens. Section 5 of Apache 2.0 was a good start. The Berneout Pledge builds steam for "inbound=outbound" even under other important licenses that don't mention what's expected.


a simple tool for hassle-free open-source contribution licensing


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